Arthunkal is a coastal town and a major pilgrim centre in the  Alapuzha district of Kerala. It is 43 kilometres south of Cochin city and 21 kilometres north of Alleppey town.

Arthunkal is considered as a holy land by hundreds and thousands of devotees, of Christian as well as other faith. The village is synonymous for its church, which has the Roman martyr Saint Sebastian as its patron. The feast of St. Sebastian in Arthunkal is a grand celebration extending for two weeks in January. While the main day of the traditional feast or the perunnal (perunnal meaning feast) is on January 20, the church authorities have instituted another on January 27, to mark the end of celebrations, locally referred to as Ettamperunnal or ‘the 8th day of the feast’. Devotees from all across the state visit the church on the feast days. A procession, carrying the graceful statue of St. Sebastian, from the church to the beach and back, is the most important event of the feast.

Many devotees, who recovered from serious illness or closely escaped accidents, often visit this pilgrim site to offer thanks to St. Sebastian. It is believed that the saint has powers to heal the maimed, crippled and those with mental disorders. Thus many disabled people also visit the shrine. Devotees often express gratitude by crawling on their knees, known as Urulunercha, on the road from the beach to the church, and make offerings – small metal replicas of bows and arrows. On January 18, as the gates of the church are opened at early hours of dawn, thousands of devotees, including Hindu pilgrims returning from the Sabarimala temple, throng to pay their homage to the saint.

The church, officially ‘Arthunkal St. Andrew’s Forane Church’, was originally built by the Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. It has a fascinating history. The church was rebuilt in 1584, under the then vicar Fr. Jacoma Fenicio, whom the devotees claim, possessed magical powers to heal the body and mind. Devotees fondly referred to him as Arthunkal Veluthachan, which in English translates to fair skinned father. Fr. Fenicio died in 1632.

Eight years after his death, the church was rebuilt again, this time facing the west towards the long white-sand beach on the shores of the Arabian Sea. In 1647, the statue of St. Sebastian, struck with arrows all over his bleeding body (he was executed at the order of the Roman emperor for embracing Christian faith) sculptured in Milan, was brought and placed in the Arthunkal church. Arthunkal St Andrews Forane Church, the first Parish of the Diocese of Alleppey has been elevated to the status of Basilica on 9 July 2010.

Arthunkal Basilica became the first Basilica in the diocese of Alleppey and the 7th Basilica in Kerala. It is the 3rd Basilica of the Roman Catholic Latin church of Kerala.



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